We went to the park and Israel was excited to go play with all the kids he saw crawling on the equipment. I placed him in the sand and he quickly army crawled toward the group of kids by the slide. He struggled to make it across the sand and as he neared, the kids darted across the sand to another spot. He turned to follow and again struggled to catch up to them. A small boy with sandy brown hair stopped and turned. He walked back towards my son and he said, “you got to get up and walk” and he grabbed his hand to pull him to standing. Israel tried to stand and the little boy again said, “come on, stand up on your feet like me”. I quickly walked over and explained that he could not walk. The little boy stared up quizzically and asked, “When are you going to teach him?” I smiled and said, “he will never walk or run, he was born with legs that can’t move”. In that moment, I felt crushed as I thought about my little boy on the sidelines watching others run and jump. In my head, I started thinking about all the things he couldn’t do. I also thought of my son, Joel who is deaf and how he misses out on so many sounds. For a moment, all of the things that my boys would never be able to do whirled through my head. But then, I looked into Israel’s innocent face and I realized a very big truth.
I realized that you don’t have to jump, to reach great heights. Israel will never jump, but he has a determination and strength of will that tells him he is capable of anything. It is far more debilitating to be chained by fear of failure and the opinions of others, than to leap and fall, then get back up and try again.
I have determined that you don’t need to be able to walk, to be great. No, a truer measure of a man is how he walks with the weak and the persecuted. It is my prayer that Israel understand that walking will never define him as a man, but how he treats others is a greater feat of accomplishment.
I have seen that perfect hearing will never allow you to hear what’s most important. You can hear perfectly, but never truly listen. It is a far greater skill to hear a persons heart and soul, than to be limited by spoken words alone.
I realized that you don’t have to run, to be free. Israel may never run on two legs, but he knows what freedom feels like because he has experienced captivity and restriction. He has lived in an orphanage where he was contained for hours and days within a crib. So now my little boy knows what it feels like to run free, even if he doesn’t have the legs to carry his body.
You don’t need 20/20 vision to truly see. What is often unseen and experienced is a far greater gift.
I look at my “disabled” children and I am so lucky to be taught such important truths. They have taught me about seeing the beauty beneath the skin, hearing beyond words, walking with the broken, and loving with abandon. I have learned that all the goals and successes that I thought were worthy, are really just hollow achievements. Instead they have shown me that life is about wading waist deep into the muck and the mire. It’s about imperfections and failures. It’s getting your hands dirty and your heart broken because you aren’t going to sit on the sideline and just watch. It’s about measuring success in a way that this world scoffs at. It’s about failing and falling, but then dragging yourself up, brushing off and entering the ring again. And maybe, just maybe if we stop running and take a moment to listen, see and learn, we might realize that an impairment found within the soul, is far more disabling than a physical one.
God knows that Israel would like to walk and Joel would like to have perfect hearing. But these are wants, and that is not an ability they were born with. It is beautifully difficult to watch them learn to walk by faith and not by want. As their mother, I would give anything to see Israel walk and Joel hear, but I have to believe that God has something greater for them. And when they must do something hard and seemingly impossible, I have to look at them and think, “beautiful, brave boys, fix your eyes on Jesus. Now drop your shoulders and hold your head high. Deep breath, you got this. Continue on.” And every piece of me must fight to step back and watch, listen and see, instead of fixing what I was never meant to repair.
I know the moment I changed, the moment I could truly see and hear the world, and it has just about broke me. It wasn’t walking into an orphanage in Eastern Europe that housed hundreds of children and hearing the silence. Children don’t cry, laugh or squeal in delight if no one responds. It wasn’t sitting in a room watching a 1 year old rhythmically beat her head against the crib bars, for two hours. It wasn’t seeing bed sores to the bone, the bleeding knuckles from being chewed on, or the hollow-eyed stares of malnourished children. No, it was my own horror. It was the moment when my heart wrenched in my chest as they handed me my future son. And deep within I thought, “oh my God, no”. I thought how I could not taken this broken, smelly piece of humanity into my home. Picked to die, placed in an orphanage, and then placed into a mother’s arms that could barely see past her own fears and brokenness. It was the moment that I stared at my own American church lady ideals and wanted to puke. It was God shining a mirror in my face, and what I saw was far more broken and disabled than the child I held in my arms. I write this because I didn’t want to see. I didn’t really want to hear, and most certainly I don’t want to remember…but I will. Kids are dying, and we are far more disabled by our inability to open our eyes and truly look. To look at children that are transferred between the ages of 4 and 6, and see….
But also to see how helping bring a child home can truly save a life.
I learned a beautiful lesson in the park and perhaps we can take something from the words spoken by a child. After I told him he would never walk, the little boy looked down at Israel in the sand and said to me, “that’s not a big deal. If you will just lift him up to me on the slide, I’ll hold him on my lap. We can do the slide together”. And there it was, a great truth spoken in the sandbox. There is no greater disability, than the inability to see a person as more – Hensel
Perhaps we can take a lesson from the sandbox. We are meant to walk this together. And when it all seems overwhelming, listen and perhaps you will hear, “beautiful, brave children, fix your eyes on me. Now drop your shoulders and hold your head high. Deep breath, you got this. Continue on.” One child at a time, www.reecesrainbow.org